Category Archives: Travel

‘Babymoon’ on a Secluded Pink Sand Beach…

‘Babymoon’ on a Secluded Pink Sand Beach…

'Babymoon' on a Secluded Pink Sand Beach...

Liz Longacre photo

A cozy cottage,
on a secluded pink sand beach,

on a long & narrow quiet island,
with the love of my life,
and our growing baby girl…

An island far away from the world,
and all its distractions,
where people sightings seemed far & few between,
the fish were friendly & playful,

the crabs & their antics were our local comedy,
and all the dogs appeared healthy & happy…

A kitchen to cook our meals,
dinners lit by stars,
decadent conversations about life,
and the family we’re creating,
based on our unique ideals…

Two people, 

who couldn’t be more different, 
but whose values & dreams unite us,
each other’s own kinda ‘crazy’…

Days spent on the beach,
in the ocean,
hand in hand,

just enjoying being in love…

Gentle Living Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera Bahamas photo

Eleuthera, Bahamas photo

Eleuthera, Bahamas

Red Sweater Project: Transforming Communities by Empowering Youth In Tanzania

Red Sweater Project: Transforming Communities by Empowering Youth In Tanzania

Red Sweater Project

Ashley with village children. Photo courtesy of Red Sweater Project.

When I was in Tanzania recently I got to meet Ashley Holmer, founder of Red Sweater Project.  Red Sweater Project creates affordable advanced educational opportunities for children in rural Tanzania in collaboration with local communities. Without Red Sweater Project countless children from impoverished villages would not have the opportunity to get an education. 

How Red Sweater Project Started

Ashley and her twin sister went to Tanzania after college to teach English. When her time there was coming to an end she was approached by the local village government. They said they would give her 20 acres of land if she would build the village’s first secondary school. After having fallen in love with the country and children of Tanzania, Ashley agreed. 

Ashley’s first school opened in April 2008 with 40 students. Today that school has over 120 students. Her school has proved to be such a success that she was given additional land to build a second school in the Mungere Village. 

To explain why the Mungere Village was chosen Ashley’s website states the following: 

“Imagine you’re a 13-year-old. Now imagine walking 20km every day to get to your 7th grade math class, braving treacherous routes in flood conditions, avoiding wild animals just to learn Algebra. Your parents are discussing your marriage this summer to a man twice your age since they can’t afford the $500 annual tuition that allows you to learn at the only institution that offers you a better future: a school with two students to a desk and 120 students per classroom. Kids in Mungere Village, Tanzania face a reality few adults could handle. They are hungry for education and go to great lengths for the opportunity to learn. Families make huge sacrifices to get a single child through school.”

The average family income for children in the Mungere Village is $190 per year. Most families live in mud huts, sleep on the floor, and can barely afford food let alone an education. Average secondary school and boarding school fees are $500 which makes education inaccessible to many families. Only 7% of children complete high school in Tanzania. There are not enough teachers (there is an 85,000 teacher shortage) or educational institutions. 

When I met Ashley in Tanzania in January she took me and my local tour guides to the land her new school would be located on. It was completely vacant. By April 2012, just 3 months later, construction of the primary school building had been completed.

“Don’t let nobody ever tell you that it couldn’t be done.” 

Watch this video to see the progress of the Mungere Secondary School and how it is changing the lives of children in rural Tanzania. Mungere Secondary School opens in September 2012 and will cost families just $20 per year. Ashley proves just how far will and determination can take you.

According to Ashley, the biggest changes she sees in her students is the changes in the girls. She explains that “in an elder paternalistic dominated society, most girls don’t have a voice within the community”. So when you put them in an environment where girls are just as smart as boys you can completely change their outlook. 

The Mungere school starts in September and will provide 240 students each year access to not only an quality education with experienced certified teachers but also to: 

  • Unlimited safe water and sanitation
  • Basic health services and health-based education outreach
  • Renewable energy with computer and remote internet access
  • School garden and dining facilities serving two nutritious meals each school day
  • Extra-curricular activities, sports, field trips and life-skills workshops 

If you’d like to donate to Red Sweater Project or sponsor a child, you can do so by visiting their website at: By sponsoring a child you can provide them with a competitive high school education, balanced meals, school supplies and text books, health care, sporting equipment, and a school uniform and shoes. In return you’ll receive report cards, photos and artwork, letters and the chance to build an unlikely friendship. 

Red Sweater Project is also having a fundraiser to Climb Mount Kilimanjaro in August 2012 to help support the new school. You’ll start the trip by volunteering at the Mungere school for a few days before heading off to a climbing adventure up Mount Kilimanjaro. Click here for more information:

Red Sweater Project

Ashley, Me & Immaculate in Tanzania

Red Sweater Project

School site in January prior to construction

Children of Tanzania

Children of Tanzania

Inside a mud hut in Tanzania

Inside a traditional mud hut in Tanzania


For the Love of Elephants… The Eyes of Thailand

For the Love of Elephants… The Eyes of Thailand

For the Love of Elephants… The Eyes of Thailand

The Eyes of Thailand

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile you know I have a special place in my heart for elephants, particularly after volunteering with them in Thailand. A powerful documentary on Asian elephants, The Eyes of Thailand, has its world premiere this Saturday 4/28 at the Newport Beach Film Festival (purchase tickets here).  

In this moving documentary, after losing their legs from stepping on landmines, two brave elephants are given a second chance to walk through the use of innovative prosthetics as a result of one courageous woman’s strength, determination and perseverance.

The film was directed and produced by award-winning filmmaker Windy Borman and produced by award-winning producer Tim VandeSteeg.

I had the opportunity to speak with the passionate and determined Windy Borman recently about how this documentary came about. Windy was in Thailand in 2007 on a different film project when she stumbled upon the hospital. Moved by the work they were doing there, by the founder of the hospital, Soraida Salwala, and by the untold story of the elephant survivors, the film was serendipitously set in motion.

Soraida Salwala’s love for elephants started at a young age. When she was 8-years old she saw an injured elephant lying on the side of the road after a truck hit it. As her family drove past, they heard a gunshot. Soraida asked her father what happened. He told her, “Uncle Elephant is in heaven now.” Young Soraida asked “But if he was dying, why couldn’t he go to the hospital?” 

In 1993, Soraida opened the world’s first Asian Elephant Hospital, operated by Friends of the Asian Elephant (FAE). FAE is a 200-acre facility that includes elephant infirmaries, an operating area, and a nursery for baby elephants. After treating everything from knife and gunshot wounds to car accidents, they faced their biggest challenge the first time they received an elephant who had stepped on a landmine.


The Eyes of Thailand

This 50-year old Asian Elephant stepped on a landmine in 1999 while she and
her mahout (owner) were logging along the Burmese border. She walked for 3 days
on her severely injured leg to arrive at the Asian Elephant Hospital.
After 10 years of surgery and rehabilitation she received her first prosthetic
limb built by a human orthopedist in August 2009. 


The Eyes of Thailand

Mosha stepped on a landmine in 2006 when she was just 7-months old.
Her young age helped her heal quickly and in June 2008 she received her first prosthetic limb.
She needs to receive a new prosthetic every six months because of how quickly she’s growing.
Mosha’s sassy personality and quirky antics quickly stole director Windy Borman’s heart. 

Soraida said she fights for these elephants against all odds because “the elephants cannot fight, they cannot speak, so I am speaking on their behalf.” Soraida herself lives with several debilitating illnesses and walks with a cane so she knows what it means to suffer in this way.

As Motala received her first prosthetic leg, 10 years after she stepped on a landmine, Soraida said to Windy “Some people say we wasted our time, to save just one life. But to me, no. It’s been 10 years and every second of it has been so valuable.”

As tears fill her eyes she says “I don’t want any elephant to be hurt. I’d rather have an elephant hospital without any patients. I hope that day will come.” 

The Eyes of Thailand Trailer

The Eyes of Thailand was awarded the prestigious ACE Film Grant from the Humane Society of the United States, who said “The Eyes of Thailand is an inspiring and unique documentary that will open up hearts and minds about the amazing veterinary work being performed at the Asian Elephant Hospital.”

Windy Borman hopes that The Eyes of Thailand will not only highlight the plight of Asian elephants and the wonderful work being done at the elephant hospital, but also encourage countries to sign the Mine Ban Treaty requiring the removal of all land mines, the destruction of stock piles, and the end of landmine trading. Actress Ashley Judd lent her voice in the narration of the film to help make these goals a reality.

Lessons from the Eyes of Thailand

Soraida Salwala shows what one woman can do in the face of insurmountable obstacles. As Windy Burman said to me during our chat, “Soraida’s determination was a personal lesson on perseverance and sacrifice… I looked at my own life and asked, what am I willing to dedicate my life to? What do I think is impossible that’s actually possible?” 

Well Windy applied that lesson and did the impossible in the creation of this film. She served as the director, producer, writer, camera woman, fundraiser, grant writer, and more to make this film a reality (eventually gaining a team along the way).

Windy and Soraida both prove that when you really set your mind to something, nothing can stop you.

Actions You Can Take to Help The Eyes of Thailand

1. Purchase tickets for the world premier event this Saturday 4/28 at the Newport Beach Film Festival – PURCHASE HERE

2. Join their newsletter so you can find out when a screening of the film is coming to your neighborhood. Click here to sign up.

3. Social Media: Join their Facebook Page at and follow them on Twitter at  

4. Help spread the word! 

Sample Tweets:

10 years. 2 souls. 1 amazing feat. Witness @SoraidaSalwala & Motala’s journey in the powerful @eyesofthailand film

World’s first #elephant hospital. World’s first elephant #prosthesis. A story of love and passion

Sample Facebook Posts: 

Save the Asian Elephants. Help us bring their plight to light. @The Eyes of Thailand

Wow! Just watched “The Eyes of Thailand” trailer. It’s truly inspirational. @The Eyes of Thailand

10 Years. Two Souls. One Amazing Feat.  

The Eyes of Thailand

Mosha using the world’s first elephant prosthesis

The Eyes of Thailand

Motala with her prosthetic – the world’s largest prosthesis

The Eyes of Thailand

Motala getting fitted for her prothesis

The Eyes of Thailand

The Eyes of Thailand

The Eyes of Thailand

Motala taking her first steps on the prothesis on the tenth anniversary of her landmine accident

The Eyes of Thailand Soraida Salwala & Motala
Copyright: Julia Ferdinand

The Eyes of Thailand Soraida Salwala & Motala
Copyright: Julia Ferdinand

 All photos courtesy of The Eyes of Thailand 

7 Places to Volunteer in South America for Animal & Nature Lovers

7 Places to Volunteer in South America for Animal & Nature Lovers

7 Places to Volunteer in South America
for Animal & Nature Lovers


Volunteer with Animals in South America 

Volunteering abroad can be such a life changing experience. Here are 7 volunteer organizations in South America for animal and nature lovers.

1. El Puma Ecological Park: Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Argentina

Volunteer with Animals in South AmericaThis park is dedicated to rescuing and rehabilitating wild animals and conducting conservation work. They nurse sick and injured animals back to health and, whenever possible, release them back into the wild. Some of the animals here have been rescued from the black market. Animals include monkeys, pumas, birds, wild swine, jaguars, toucans, and other native species. They work with Ministry of Ecology and other national parks and universities to monitor released animals and to foster their conservation work. Their conservation efforts include breeding rare species to increase their numbers. 

The park is located in Candelaria near the town of Posadas, the capital of Argentina’s most northern Province of Misiones. Because of lack of financial resources, volunteers are essential to help care for all the animals. Please note that the majority of the staff at this project do not speak any English so a basic level of Spanish would be ideal. 

To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here. I have volunteered at this park personally and learned a great deal although the language barrier for me was difficult as I only speak a small amount of Spanish.

2. Black Howler Monkeys Volunteer Center, Argentina

This rehabilitation centre is the only center for the rehabilitation of primates in Argentina. For over 12 years the center has been working with howler monkeys who inhabit the forests and jungles of Northeast Argentina.

The centre is located in the province of Cordoba and occupies almost 900 acres in mountains, rivers, waterfalls and forests at 4,400 feet above sea level. The region is very remote – 11 kms away from the closest village of La Cumbre.

To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here.

3. Proyecto Asis: Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation Center, Costa Rica
Volunteer with Animals in South America

Proyecto Asis is a wildlife rehabilitation center that also has Spanish immersion programs. There is a large variety of animal species, many of which were rescued from the black market. Animals you’ll find include spider monkeys, white-lipped peccaries, raccoons, caimans, kinkajous, a large variety of bird species (including parrots, owls, and toucans), and more. Proyecto Asis has been featured on National Geographic and is an extremely well-run volunteer organization. Volunteers of all backgrounds are welcome and the volunteer programs are hands-on, interactive and diverse. 

To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here. I’ve volunteered there myself and it was a magical experience.

4. Rancho Mastatal: Environmental Learning Center & Lodge, Costa Rica 

Rancho Mastatal is an environmental learning and sustainable living center, a rural sanctuary and a lodge located in and on the edge of the last remaining virgin rainforest of Costa Rica’s beautiful Puriscal County. They practice, promote and teach about living responsibly in the tropics while educating visitors about the significance of the world’s disappearing tropical forests. They work tirelessly to help lead local efforts in conservation, education, natural medicine and community growth. Their site encompasses 550+ acres of picture-perfect waterfalls, crystal-clear rivers, idyllic swimming holes, impressive trees, extraordinary wilderness views, and pristine habitat for the area’s rich flora and fauna.

Rancho Mastatal gets amazing reviews and as they say on their website “volunteers work and live with amazing people at the Ranch…, make lifelong friends, and participate in a style of living that often times changes them forever.”

 To learn more about their volunteer program, click here.

5. La Tortuga Feliz: Sea Turtle Conservation, Costa Rica

Volunteer in South America with Animals Poaching, fishing nets, pollution and other threats have caused an alarming decline in the sea turtle population. La Tortuga Feliz protects the critically endangered leatherback and green turtles that come to its beach line every breeding season to lay their eggs. 

This project is located on a beautiful isolated Caribbean beach about 3 hours from San Jose. The beach is surrounded by a rainforest, rivers, canals and lagoons and it can only be accessed by motorboat. In addition to the sea turtles, you may also see monkeys, fish, crocodiles, 145 species of birds, iguanas, sloths, foxes, and the dogs the project has rescued. The organization employs local people to guard and patrol the beach. The income the locals earn eliminates their need to poach turtles and allows them to participate in establishing an ideal environment for turtles to lay their eggs.

To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here. I have also volunteered there myself and I’m happy to provide you with additional information.

6. Merazonia Animal Rescue Center, Ecuador  

Merazonia is an up-and-coming rescue center for trafficked and abused Amazonian animals, located on 250 acres of rainforest, in Mera, Ecuador. Animals confiscated by the Ministry of Environment and the police are brought there for veterinary care. They care for monkeys, kinkajous, cats, and other mammals and parrots. Volunteers help care for the animals and construct enclosures and trails to improve the center. They rehabilitate and release the animals whenever possible.

To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here.

7. The Ara Project/Hatched to Fly Free, Costa Rica

Volunteer in South America with Animals

This organization is dedicated to the conservation of 2 native macaw species, both of which are endangered, the Scarlet Macaw and the Great Green or Buffon’s Macaw. This organization rehabilitates rescued macaws, breeds macaws to release them into to the wild and conducts conservation research on their patterns after they’ve been released. 

This project was originally founded by an American couple who fell in love with Costa Rica and its animals and were determined to help repopulate these endangered creatures. The project now has one of the largest collection of Great Green Macaws in the world. 

While at the project, the birds are provided with the ideal conditions that will allow them to survive and breed in the wild. As a volunteer you will work side by side with dedicated conservationists and biologists to protect these magnificent and endangered birds.

To learn more about their volunteer programs, click here.

A few other volunteer organizations to consider: Biomindo: Environmental Conservation, Ecuador; EcoCiencia: Environmental Conservation, Ecuador; Santa Martha Animal Rescue, Ecuador; Ceiba Foundation for Tropical Conservation, Ecuador; Foundation Zoobreviven: Environmental Conservation, Ecuador; Foundation for the Protection of Animals, Ecuador

Do you know of any other great volunteer organizations in South America for animal and nature lovers

Photos from volunteer work in South America…

Volunteer with Animals in South America

Volunteer with Animals in South America

Volunteer with Animals in South America

Volunteer with Animals in South America

Volunteer with Animals in South America

Volunteer with Animals in South America

Are You Blocking Abundance? (& my trip far, far away…)

Are You Blocking Abundance? (& my trip far, far away…)

Everything you desire, the Universe wants to provide to you.
You just need to be open to receiving it.
See opportunities in disguised encounters,
see possibilities in unexpected happenings.

Receive and you will achieve.   

I was recently made aware of how I have been actively blocking abundance from my life. In my first GL newsletter I mentioned that I was just finishing a 6 month entrepreneurial coaching group. During a meeting in Seattle with that group, my coach made a very insightful observation on my ability, or inability, to receive.  Her observation has forever changed how I approach life and you may be able to relate…

My coach tried to give me a compliment. She said I’m a gifted writer. I responded that there are much better writers, I just enjoy it. She tried again, “No Liz, it’s really your strength, you communicate so well through writing”. My response went something like, “well, I’m no Shakespeare…”

She had enough. “I’m going to stop you right there. You have a problem with receiving. And if you’re unable to receive a compliment, you’re likely not open to receiving in any area of life.”

Someone chimed in, “Yeah Liz, when I told you your hair was pretty yesterday, you quickly said how awful it is.”

Okay, got it, no need to belabor the point. I have a problem…

It’s true, compliment my hair and I have an arsenal of insults prepared for myself. “No, it’s so thick and curly, very hard to manage.” “No, it can get so frizzy, it’s such a pain.” “Oh, it takes so long to do in the morning, such a hassle.” I’ve got self-depricating bullets to rifle off in response to just about every verbal compliment aimed at me.

I know I’m not the only one out there with this bad habit and women seem particularly prone to it.

Why do we disparage ourselves so? How did humility get so confused with insult?

And in refusing to receive compliments and other forms of abundance, apparently we’re not only robbing ourselves of what’s being offered to us, but we’re robbing the giver as well. As if to say, “thank you for the verbal gift you just sound waved to my conscious, but now please take that thing back, I’ve no need for it.”

So I started to think about all the other ways I’ve habitually blocked abundance from entering my life. Refusing gifts, doing work for free, turning down money, not going for things I want, focusing on the negative instead to the positive. Eyes low. Posture small. Voice soft.

And so my coach instructed me to simply say “thank you” the next time someone gives me a compliment. And to then thank myself for allowing myself to receive that compliment.

Practice receiving abundance in one area, and you’ll learn to be more open to it in all areas.

Old habits die hard… This little habit of mine is so ingrained in my subconscious that I’m constantly slipping. Compliment me online, and I can easily write back thank you. Compliment me in person, and my verbal assault habits kick in. But with awareness, practice, time and effort, I’ve made big progress.

I’ve found that whenever you learn a new life lesson, the Universe wants to see if you’re really paying attention. It always tests you.

Within a week of returning home from that trip to Seattle, I received an email from my tour guides in Tanzania. They were inviting me on an all expense paid trip to Tanzania so I could experience the country I’ve been selling through Your Time Travels first hand. Fancy hotels, all meals, private guide, on safari all week. ABUNDANCE.

Their last sentence: “We await your positive response.”

My first abundance blocking instinct: “No, I could never. That’s way too generous. I don’t deserve that. I really appreciate it but I haven’t earned that yet.” “Thanks, but no.”

Stop – Awareness. Practice. Effort.

My response: “I say YES.” 

Did you hear that Universe?

We serve no one and nothing by slamming the door on abundance. Welcome abundance and you will have more to share with others, you will have more to give.

And so on Thursday I’m leaving for the trip of a lifetime. My husband is joining me and we parlayed our flights to Africa into an extended layover in Paris using points to cover 4 free nights at a Starwood hotel.

New Years even in Paris. Abundance.

And when guilt creeps in, that maybe I don’t deserve this trip, it’s too indulgent, it’s bad timing, etc., I stop myself and remind myself to always welcome abundance into my life.

How have you been blocking abundance? Are you ready to stop this bad habit? I hope so. Let me know if you need any help. 




How to Get Over Jet Lag (the healthy way)

How to Get Over Jet Lag (the healthy way)

Traveling definitely has it’s downsides… the lost bags, the dreaded middle seat, the jet lag… Jet lag can ruin a short vacation if you’re not careful making you groggy, irritable, sleepy, and generally not the ball of sunshine I’m sure you normally are!It definitely wipes me out. You may not be able to control all of the problems you encounter during your journey but what if you could beat jet lag? Here are some tips to minimize that sleepy, fuzzy, hungover-like feeling so you can start enjoying your trip sooner!

Tip #1  – Hydrate!

Flying greatly dehydrates you.  The average indoor humidity level is usually about 45% but inside a plane cabin it’s 15%. The low humidity along with increased breathing due to high altitudes sucks any moisture right out of the air. You’re left with a very dry environment and an increased possibility of dehydration. Symptoms of dehydration include lightheadedness, nausea, muscles cramps and sleepiness. These side effects combined with a thrown-off internal clock can make for a rough trip. In flight alcohol drinking heightens these symptoms so save your cocktails for after you land. Eight ounces of water for every hour you’re in the air is recommended. Also avoid all sugary beverages, and sugar in general, which will just spike your blood sugar level causing you to feel even groggier later.

Tip #2 – Don’t hibernate.

Your body responds to natural sunlight.  The more time you spend outside basking in the sun the easier it will be for you to adjust to the new time zone.  Also make sure to eat all meals at the local time starting immediately upon arrival. Set your watch when you’re on the plane to the local time as well. The faster you trick your mind and body to adjust, the happier you’ll be.

Tip #3 – Stay awake once you arrive in your destination.

One of the best ways to trump jet lag is to just stay awake. Sometimes that’s easier said than done so make sure you have interesting ways to stay productive once you arrive at your destination. Avoid strenuous activities but explore the local village, visit a museum, or take a walk on the beach to keep your mind engaged and your body moving. Try not to go to bed until it’s really the local bedtime. Avoid naps if possible as they’re terribly difficult to wake up from and will further interfere with your body adjusting to your new time zone.

Tip #4 – Reduce caffeine.

You’ll be tempted to turn to caffeine to get you through your sluggish moments. While caffeine may provide you with a jolt of stimulation, it will make it harder for you to sleep deeply when it’s really time for bed. You’ll need quality sleep to fight the jet lag so don’t let caffeine get the best of you. Caffeine also dehydrates your body which will only add to your jet lag woes. You should keep caffeine to a minimum during the days leading up to and during your trip.

Tip #5 – Don’t take sleeping pills.

Reaching for sleeping pills to help with jet lag may cause more trouble than they’re worth.  If you aren’t already taking sleeping pills, do not turn to them for the first time during a flight as you don’t know how your body will react. Even if you are accustom to taking them, they still may not be your best bet. After waking up from a pill induced sleep you often feel very groggy which is not the right way to kick off a trip in a different time zone. If you’re worried about not being able to sleep on your flight, bring something to use as a pillow, an eye-mask, and ear plugs. If you follow the other tips in this article, you should be sleeping soundly in your destination country in no time.

Tip #6 – All Natural Jet Lag Remedies

No-Jet-Lag: No-Jet-Lag is a homeopathic remedy (vegan and not tested on animals) that has been known to be very helpful in preventing jet lag. It’s even used by major athletes to help them perform at their optimum physical levels upon arrival to their destinations. It has no reported side effects due to it’s low doses of these all natural ingredients: Leopard’s Bane, Daisy, Wild Chamomile, Ipecac and Clubmoss. It’s recommended that you chew one tablet each time your plane takes off and each time it lands, even if you are not disembarking, to counter the effects of pressure changes. Also take one every two hours while flying to counter the effects of long flights. It is best taken separately from meals. To find stores that carry this product or to order online, click here.

Melatonin: Melatonin is a common jet lag cure but it should only be used in very small doses (0.5 mg) and for a very short amount of time (just 2 or 3 nights). Melatonin is a chemical produced by your brain at night to make you sleepy. Your brain’s production of melatonin gets thrown out of wack when you travel. Taking sparing doses before bedtime after you arrive at your destination can help your body adjust. If you take larger doses or take it for an extended period of time you may suffer from side effects such as vivid dreams and nightmares. Melatonin can be found at most health stores.

Tip #7 – Going ninja on jet lag…

The final tip, for the hard core traveling pros, is to start combating jet lag several days before you leave for your trip by slowly adjusting your sleeping and eating times to match the schedule of your destination country. This may not be feasible due to your work or family schedule but if you can do it, even just to a minor extent, it will give your body’s internal clock a kickstart.

Beating jet lag is not easy but you can do it!  By following the above tips, you’ll be energized and ready to start exploring your new locale in no time.Happy traveling!

Note: As you know, I’m no doctor! But I am a lawyer, so here’s my little disclaimer: Always consult a physician before taking any medication!

Contributor: Gina Guariglia-Kelly 

What Thailand’s Elephants Taught Me About Being a Responsible Tourist for Animals

Have you ever traveled abroad and unwittingly supported an activity that was harmful to animals? I bet most of us have. When I volunteered abroad in Thailand at an elephant sanctuary I learned that almost all of the tourist activities involving elephants support an extremely brutal practice that most tourists are unaware of. This practice is called the pajaan.

The pajaan is a centuries old training method used to break an elephant’s spirit. It involves separating a baby elephant from its mother (which alone is extremely traumatic), at around 4 years of age, and placing it in a cage like structure called a training crush. The goal is to literally crush their independence and make them forever submissive to humans. The cage is just big enough for the elephant to fit inside it and it is tied up with ropes so it can’t escape. The elephant is then beaten by multiple men and stabbed repeatedly with sticks that have sharp nails attached to them. This intense beating lasts for 4 – 7 days. Throughout this period of “training” they are deprived of food and water and subjected to sleep deprivation to heighten the trauma. The more the elephant struggles, the more severely it is beaten. They get stabbed repeatedly in the most sensitive parts of their bodies – their inner ears and eyes. Some elephants go blind from this abuse. Throughout the pajaan the infant is petrified, confused, in pain and in the end, broken.

When the pajaan is over the abuse continues as they are put through weeks of more training. As you know, elephants never forget so these giant creatures learn to forever be fearful of humans and to always do what they’re told. All domestic elephants in Thailand are subjected to this ritual.

I don’t write this to imply anything negative about Thai people, they are truly wonderful, warm, and endearing people. This is a tradition that goes back for so many years it’s become part of their culture, they view it as a necessity. Cultural traditions are not easy to change. As I mentioned in my previous post, the founder of the elephant sanctuary I volunteered with is working to change the way people train their elephants. Training can be done with positive enforcement instead of fear. Many elephants put through the pajaan become extremely distrustful of people and aggressive and have later killed people in retaliation. Elephants trained with love and trust would remain the gentle giants they were born to be.

When you travel make sure to do your research before participating in any tourist activity that involves animals. Use your tourist dollars responsibly. If you travel to Thailand, don’t pay to feed elephants on the street. These elephants lead horrible lives where they are forced to walk up and down busy city streets begging for food. They are often malnourished and have no access to clean water. Don’t support elephant riding camps or worst of all, elephant painting or music playing. These elephants are subjected to months of intense brutal training and they are chained up whenever they are not performing. They are only able to paint pictures because they have been trained to follow certain lines with their paint brush and they know what will happen to them if they don’t. They are isolated, alone and in many cases continue to suffer abuse. They are often owned by people who only care about tourist dollars, not about an elephant’s welfare. Elephants in Thailand are the foundation of the tourism industry yet they have virtually no legal protection from abuse.

Circus elephants in the United States are not treated much better. Trainers take a baby from its mother and put it through brutal training regimens forcing it to perform dance steps and stand on its head for fear of the consequences. Elephants were not meant to be doing stupid things like this. Yes the fact that they are capable of learning this is amazing but what does it say about us that we want them to. Performing elephants never get be with their families or roam for hundreds of miles per day as they would in the wild. The constant chaining often causes them to develop abnormal behaviors like rocking back and forth. If they finally lose it and act out with aggression, they are killed and labeled as “crazy”. Unfortunately, it’s not the elephants who are the crazy ones…

As long as tourist dollars support unethical activities, they will remain intact. Instead support and volunteer with animal welfare organizations that celebrate the natural beauty and behaviors of elephants and treat them with respect and kindness. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they visited Thailand and engaged in tourist activities that they later found out were harmful to the elephants involved. For me, nothing could ruin my vacation faster.

Money is power. Do your research, use your money wisely, be a responsible tourist. The more people support responsible tourism, the faster those industries will grow.

Farm Sanctuary Fundraiser Update: I can’t believe it but I am a mere $90 away from my $1,000 goal!!!! Who can help me get there??!! I’m so close!! So many thanks to all the generous donors so far!!


Quick Tips for a Successful Volunteer Abroad Experience

Volunteers hard at work in Thailand

Last week we talked about why voluntourism is super fabulous so this week I’d like to follow up with some tips on how to get the most out of your volunteer abroad experience.

Let me start by telling you exactly what to expect. Ready, here it is – EXPECT NOTHING. The worst thing you could do is go into a volunteer abroad experience with a boatload of preconceived ideas and expectations because chances are it’s going to be NOTHING like what you expected. While you may have an interest in “volunteering abroad” for a particular cause, what that really means is that you want to step into an organization in a different culture that has a unique set of subjects they are trying to help, a unique set of employees and volunteers, and a unique set of rules, values, priorities and issues. No matter how much research you do you won’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until you get there. So be super excited for the brand new out-of-your-world experience that you are about to embark upon but go in with an open mind and a clean palate because no volunteer experiences are the same.

So here are some tips to help you get the most out of your experience. This list could obviously go on and on but these are the things I wouldn’t have fully understood if I hadn’t experienced them first-hand throughout my journeys. If you have any other tips I’d LOVE to hear them so please leave them in the comments!

1. Embrace the experience & ignore the inconveniences. Volunteering in a foreign country is a once in a lifetime experience (even if you do it more than once!). Ignore the inconveniences that you would never put up with at home. For example, if the shower only runs freezing cold water with no pressure from a faucet located only 2 feet above the ground, that’s okay, you’re not there for a spa. You’ll be back home to your jet streams in no time so don’t let these little discomforts affect your perception of what you’re there to accomplish.

2. Stay away from negative people. Often you will be surrounded by a positive group of volunteers who love every minute of what they’re doing but every now and then someone comes along who hates absolutely everything and has no problem contaminating your experience with their negativity. Whether you want it to or not, their negativity will creep into your brain and affect how you view everything going forward. While they may have their reasons, you should have the chance to make your own assessments. So, to the extent you can, stay away from these people. Be the positive person you would want everyone else to be. Positivity is contagious, let it shine through you.

3. Talk to the organization’s directors/volunteer leaders as much as you can. You are there to learn and the people working there are a wealth of knowledge and stories. If it’s a big organization and there are a lot of other volunteers it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let that happen, seek them out and spend time with them. They will appreciate your curiosity and you will have a richer experience for it.

4. Bond. You will finally be rid of email, facebook and twitter and all your daily gadgets that distract you from fully engaging in conversation. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you can bond with people through volunteer work. I still keep in touch with people from almost every trip I’ve been on. These friendships make the experience all the more enriching.

5. Don’t be shocked if things aren’t run exactly as you’d like. I admit, I’ve struggled with this periodically. I’ve been to organizations that fall into all areas of the spectrum, those that are extremely well run and organized providing the ultimate volunteer experience to those that are not so well run. After working for so long at a law firm, which is a well oiled machine built for the most optimal level of efficiency, I’ve often wondered if I am particularly susceptible to falling into an overly critical mindset. But I would hate to be someone who marches in telling people how to run things better after being there for only a few days so I’ve found it’s best to wait for an organization to ask for feedback. If they ask for it it shows that they care about continually improving, as every company should. Just as with everything in life, no organization is perfect, and the smaller ones who need the most help are often the ones who could benefit from some changes. I believe in supporting these organizations (provided that they are legitimate) just as much, if not more than, the larger ones who’ve got it all figured out because the more help they get, the more effective and efficient they can become.

6. Follow the volunteer organization’s rules. While some rules may seem arbitrary and unreasonable to you (i.e., no drinking on the premises), those rules are there for a reason, placed after years of trial and error that you were not a part of. You are only there for a short time, don’t try to rock the boat and be a rebel.

7. Remember you are not there to save the world. As I mentioned in my last post, you will likely learn and gain more from the experience than you give. You are there to help out, to learn and to then spread awareness – that is the beauty of volunteer work.

Here are some random photos I’ve taken of volunteers hard at work and hard at play!

Sanctuary for endangered macaws, Costa Rica

Start of overnight trip into the jungle w/elephants, Thailand

Jungle treehouse, Thailand

Me & Paws, rescued street dog, Costa Rica

Friends of different species at an ecological park that rescues wild animals, Argentina

Break to play soccer w/locals at a sea turtle conservation program, Costa Rica

Break to play soccer w/school children, Thailand

My husband tying a cloth blessed by buddhist monks around a tree to protect it from deforesters, Thailand

Locals entertaining us with their music, Thailand

Silly volunteer ;)

Feeding rescued street dogs, Thailand

Volunteer introducing herself to the local residents!

Smooches for me!!

What is Voluntourism Really About? & 5 Reasons Why It’s WAY COOLER than Just Sitting on a Beach All Day…

Me & fellow volunteers in Thailand

Let’s start with the definition of “voluntourism”. Voluntourism is exactly what is sounds like, volunteering while engaging in traditional tourism activities when you travel. While that sounds so simple it’s really about so much more. It’s about cultural immersion, participation and exploration. It’s about meeting people from all over the world and from all walks of life and engaging in something truly unique with them that bonds you in much deeper way than getting drunk at a hotel bar. While you may exchange a lot of “I love you’s” when you’re drunk, it’s superficial and it probably won’t change your life in any real way.

When you volunteer you get to totally immerse yourself in the culture by working, and even living, with the local people. You get to hear their stories and learn their history. You get to interact with other travelers from all over the world. You get to choose a cause you care about and then participate in it in a unique and amazing way. While you may have to do some hard work, it’s not sitting in a cubicle watching the clock tick kind of work. It’s exhilarating and unique and challenging and it’s for the benefit of those who need it most. By adding tourism activities you get to explore the country and just have fun, because you work hard and you deserve some fun!! It’s the absolute best way to get the most out of a country and out of a vacation in a short amount of time.

So if you haven’t given voluntourism a try yet, here are 5 reasons why you don’t want to miss out!!

1.  Cultural Immersion. The days of traveling to another country merely to sit at a hotel resort sipping mai tai’s and baking in the sun all day every day are somewhat over. From terrorist attacks, to tsunamis, to earth quakes, to economic collapses, to social media, our world has become smaller and smaller. We now want to engage more, learn more and interact more. Spending a ton of money to fly to a foreign country and never leave your resort now seems frivolous. Through voluntourism holidays you can still get your beach and mai tai time in, but you get so much more. There is no better and faster way to immerse yourself in a culture than to work side by side with it’s people for a cause you share together.

2.  Dissolve Stereotypes. It comes as no surprise that people everywhere have stereotypes. Stereotypes of Americans are not always flattering. Prove people wrong. When you volunteer abroad you get to spend a lot of quality time with local people. You can show them what being an American is all about. Be helpful, gracious, courteous, respectful and eager to listen and learn. Slowly but surely you will influence people’s image of not only you but the culture you represent.

3. Knowledge is Contagious. The more you learn on your travels, the more eager you’ll be to continue that learning process when you get home and to educate others about what you’ve learned. My first volunteer abroad experience was in Thailand at an elephant sanctuary. At the time I didn’t know just how harmful it was to go on elephant rides or to watch elephants paint a picture. My instincts told me it wasn’t good, but I didn’t know just how devastating a life those elephants live to provide entertainment for tourists. My point is, I learned from the people working at that sanctuary and I came home and I shared that knowledge. In doing so I affected what other people participate in when they travel and that shared knowledge became invaluable.

4.  It’s Good for Your Health. Volunteering has been shown to help decrease rates of depression, increase your functional ability and reduce your chances of getting heart disease! We’ve all had bouts of depression where it feels like your life is a mess, nothing’s going your way and the future looks bleak. There is nothing better at getting you out of your own head, than helping others, whether they be animals or people or the environment. You may think you have it bad but I guarantee you others have it far worse and they could use your help.  In helping them, you gain a little perspective that goes a long way.

5.  It May Change Your Life. It certainly changed mine.

So whatever your interests may be, if you want to get a little more out of life and out of your vacation, consider including some volunteer work in your travels. You will gain way more than you give.